Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Goodness it has been a long time since my last post; time always seems to get away from me! It has been rather busy here, and I hope for things to calm down in the new year.

It is always rather frustrating for me to buy parrot products, like toys, food, perches, etc. I much prefer to buy from small, more personal stores, but all too often products from such places arrive smelling strongly of scented laundry detergent or some other fragrance. Needless to say, I can not be around them, and neither therefore can my birds. I used to try ordering one or two items from a store, to see how they were, but after several failures, I decided it was not an economically feasible plan. For a while I kept with two stores where I was able to find most of what I needed. Last year, when one of those started arriving smelling like cigarette smoke, I decided I needed to find some new places! Feeling brave, I tried emailing a few online from-home bird stores to ask if they used scented laundry detergent. Although I explained myself, I am sure it was still very confusing for them to know how to answer, and most of my responses reflected that. Only one of the stores came back with an understanding response, as she herself had some chemical sensitivities. As of now, I have three stores I know are safe and scent/smoke free:
The Bird-Safe Store
Grey Feather Toys
Hello Bird

They are all quality stores. The first and last carry mass brands and most common products, and I get most of my food and the planet pleasure toys from them. The middle one is the one run by a lady with some sensitivities herself, and it is full of incredible handmade toys and toy parts, as well as good organic food; I am simply thrilled that I can buy her products! And in case anyone reading this is interested in a great dog/cat store that is scent/smoke free, I use Olive Green Dog.

While I am sure most people reading this have never given any thought to what their bird products arrived smelling like, I hope you can at least understand how irritating it is for those of us that must consider it. I recently won a very nice climbing net through an online contest, something which I was quite excited about! Unfortunately, it arrived smelling very strongly of some fragrance, so I am sure I will never be able to be around it. Quite a let down, needless to say. I am trying to see if it will air out enough that my parents can use it with their birds, and if not, I am not sure what I will do with it. Sometimes I think moving to Canada might be a good idea- I hear they are not only stricter on which chemicals can be used, but are also are creating fragrance (including bounce!) free buildings, businesses and towns. Not a bad idea!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paco's Story

~Written by Jude Vickers~

When my husband told me his cousin had given us a bird I was somewhat less than thrilled, having had a mean parakeet when I was in grade school. I told him I didn’t want a bird, we didn’t need one, and we were not taking it. I reminded him that we lived in the woods, with hundreds of birds in a dozen varieties flocking to the feeders right outside our windows year round. We could enjoy them from a distance and I saw no good reason to bring one into our home. I even argued that having an animal pooping inside would set a bad example for our dogs! Then Les explained the reason Wendy had given us Paco, who I would later learn was a Solomon Island boy, was because the bank had foreclosed on their home. The place they were moving was smaller, and while they could make room for her cockatiel’s cage, there was no place for Paco's bigger one.

Les then went on to explain that Paco didn’t warm up to just anybody but when he stopped by Wendy’s on his trucking route, Paco always came right to him. Les had also seen other truckers with parrots and thought that since his Great Dane had gotten too old to get in and out of the big truck that Paco would make a good traveling companion. He assured me that Paco would only be home with me for a little while, while my husband figured out the logistics of having a bird in the truck.

Reluctantly, I began to accept the fact that we now had a bird. I asked Les when Wendy would be bringing it to us and was told we would have to go get him; that started my complaining all over again! Finally the big day came; Saturday, June 28, 2008. It was a 140 mile ride to Wendy's during which I was still trying to see the upside of having a bird. When we got there her place was chaotic, but we all took a moment to gather in the kitchen. As Wendy began to tell me about Paco, the most gorgeous bird flew past me and landed on my husband's shoulder. Green has always been my favorite color and I had never seen a living creature so vibrantly green!

“Oh!” I exclaimed as I put two and two together “That’s the bird we’re getting?”

Tears filled Wendy’s eyes as she nodded, and my attitude toward having a bird turned completely around. We watched my niece share her scrambled egg and toast with him as Wendy’s family told us all they could about Paco. They had rescued him some years earlier from a woman who’d long been tired of him, and Paco apparently hated Wendy. While he seemed to have no problem with the rest of the family, Paco would dive-bomb Wendy when ever he got the chance. It was Paco's obvious affection for Les, and my well reputed way with animals, that made them pick us for his new family.

Before long it was time for the guys to load Paco's cage up on the back of my husbands’ pick-up truck. Inside, Wendy gave me a Ziploc baggie full of seeds and brightly colored fruit shapes that she said contained all the vitamins and supplements Paco needed to stay healthy. Soon everything was all loaded up but before we left there was one more thing Wendy wanted to do; clip his flight feathers. Paco had been fully flighted at her house but Wendy was concerned he might try to escape from our unfamiliar place and trimmed back the first four feathers on each wing. I figured she knew what she was doing, but oh it made Paco mad!

All we had for transportation was the Chihuahua sized kennel that didn’t quite fit behind the front seats of that Ford Ranger. We did a little improvising to make it work before Wendy toweled Paco and brought him out. Then we all hugged good-bye and my dear cousin cried her eyes out as she watched us go. Paco was very mad but soon settled down and started looking out the back window; wherever he was going he knew the cage he’d always had would be there too. About halfway home, I was surprised that Paco turned and began looking where we were going instead of where we had been. Les and I decided that was a good sign.

At the house, we brought the cage in then toweled Paco to bring him in. He went willingly into his cage, undisturbed by our dogs; a Great Dane named Mack and a Pit Bull–Rottweiler mix named Josie. Mack seemed more interested in the cage; it was even bigger than him! Josie was fascinated with the bird, sure we had brought it home for the sole purpose of entertaining her. Josie loved watching the birds on the feeders, as well as all the forest life around us, and could hardly believe her eyes that she had what we began to call her own personal live bird tv.

Then my husband had to go back to work, leaving me home with Paco who was one mad little bird. Paco didn’t know me, he missed his family, and he was very upset about his wings. As I tried to find a way to relate to this new creature in my care, it soon became clear that Paco and I had something in common; we'd both had our primary mode of transportation taken from us. Where Paco had had his wings clipped, I had lost most of my left leg in a motorcycle accident some years earlier. From my wheelchair, I pointed that similarity out and began promising Paco that when his feathers grew back I would personally make sure they were never trimmed again. I commiserated every point I could about the similarities in our situations, and Paco soon began listening. I could almost see him making connections in his little birdie head as I talked.

Things began to improve as Paco realized I was not his enemy. As he warmed up to me Les began to realize that he’d lost his potential trucking buddy, but Les was not terribly surprised by that turn of events. He was pleased that Paco and I had become such buddies. And Paco delighted me daily; before my accident I had been an attendant in Michigan's state run psychiatric hospital system. I had spent years observing behaviors and found Paco’s antics to be so much more entertaining! Knowing nothing about birds but a whole lot about behavior training, I began searching the internet for information on Eclectus Parrots. There was a lot of information out there, a lot of conflicting and ambiguous information. In all the listings of birds and their sizes, I could not find an Eclectus listed anywhere!!!

Then I found a site called Land of Vos. While I didn’t know what ‘Vos’ meant, I recognized the green guys pictured there. I was amazed at the color differences between the genders, and awed at the beauty of a pair. Then I noticed a link to something called The Eclectus Connection. While I’ve never been much into forums and confused by how some of them post information, I sent an application anyway. Carolyn soon welcomed me to TEC and it didn’t take long to realize I’d hit the jackpot of ekkie information! With a few changes in my approach, and in Paco’s diet, we all became a whole lot happier.

I’m not exactly sure how long I had Paco before I began thinking about finding a companion for him. Birds are, after all, social animals. And TEC often cross posted birds in need of new homes, but they all seemed to be half the country away. Then a poor, plucked and neglected Michigan hen showed up… but that’s a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Transport help and Cockatiel adopters needed!

A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with Bird Keeper's Lung, or hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is a tragic diagnosis no bird lover ever wants to hear, as it means you have to rehome at least some of your birds, and take multiple precautions, such as wearing a respirator around the birds, if you chose to try and keep some. My friend is hoping to be able to keep her budgies, or at least her special needs budgies. However, she is going to have to rehome her tiels, as they are dustier, a decision which is obviously heartbreaking. We already have a home for her tiel and budgie pair, Pika and Pixel, to go to, but unfortunately it is in western Kentucky. We have gotten some very generous help with the driving already, so just need to find a way to complete the trip between Charlottseville, Va., and Morehead or Grayson Kentucky. Any possible help would truly be appreciated! Until we can get them over to their new home, they need to be placed in a foster home, so anyone in the Richmond area that can help with that would be wonderful.

Pixel and Pika, biding their time until they can go home.

She is also still looking for a home for her female tiel, Jezebel. As you can tell from the picture, she is not only gorgeous but very tame, and very, very sweet. I know she would make a wonderful friend for someone, just as she has for my friend. She is currently in Richmond, Va., as are Pika and Pixel.

Isn't she adorable? I know there is someone
out there that is dying to give her a loving home.
In fact, I imagine just about everyone reading this wants to!

And last, but don't ever tell him least, Jeffrey, a very sweet male tiel in eastern Kentucky, is also looking for a home. Not connected with the above person or birds, he was taken in by a softhearted chicken fancier, with no parrot experience, after she heard his sad story. Thanks to his wonderful foster mom, though he has really come around, end is even doing fairly well in his diet transition! Although very far from tame when she got him, Jeffrey is much better, and is certainly proving to have lots of spunk and charm! Although I don't have a picture of him, I fear it would not do him justice, anyway. I know there is someone out there wanting to finally give this sweet little fellow the good, loving permanent home he has so far been denied!

If you think you can help, or know of someone that can help, with any of the above queries, please do not hesitate to email me! There is a link on my profile to contact me, or just leave a comment!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Endings

So often I hear people say that they do not feel they have enough experience to adopt a parrot. This, to me, is one of the saddest myths perpetuated. Perhaps because of the term "rescue", perhaps because of poor taming, training and home transition advice, perhaps simply because baby parrots are so cute, but for whatever the reason, rehomed parrots are seen as being far more time consuming than getting a baby parrot.

When considering buying a baby parrot, it is important to remember many things. One, baby parrots are almost always going to "choose" everyone that picks them up. They are cute, adorable, and fluffy little guys that can gain control of your very senses with just one soulful gaze. However, even with the very best care taken to raise them as well socialized, "perfect" parrots, you will hit problems. If you are prepared for these problems, and are committed to continually changing and adapting to keep potential problems at bay, aware that hormones will come and that your relationship will not stay the same forever, you may not really notice any major issues. Unfortunately, you also have to deal with your parrot's adult temperament; the sweetest babies can grow up to be extremely difficult adults, regardless of all the perfect care they have received.

When rehoming a parrot, it is important to recognize how much you feel you can reasonably handle. Most parrots needing a home are not rescues, but simply rehomes- parrots that can no longer stay in their current home for whatever reason. Most are very happy, friendly, well socialized and well adjusted companions. Given some time to re-adjust to their new home, they will show themselves to be wonderful parrots, beyond the hormonal teenage stage and well settled into their adult temperament.

Rescues, as the term implies, are a different story from rehomes. There are varying degrees of rescues. Some come from poor conditions, but were never very abused, perhaps neglected, and quickly adjust to their new home if their new family takes care to allow them to adjust and works to gain their trust at the parrot's pace. I believe this is the majority of rescues, and though you do have to be prepared to go slower than you would with a well adjusted rehome or baby parrot, they are still not too hard for anyone with patience, time, and understanding. The most difficult category of rescues are true rescues, those not only from poor conditions, but also sorely abused. These parrots should only be taken on by those either with experience dealing with such parrots, or by those with lots and lots of patience, time, understanding of the parrot and of how to tame them, as well as a positive outlook and the ability to keep all stress from entering their relationship with the parrot.

While it is very important never to embark on a mission to help a parrot if you are not fully prepared for anything they throw at you, I believe this applies just as much, if not more so, to baby parrots, perhaps simply because they seem so innocent. As long as you are careful to truthfully reason how much patience, time, and ability you have, and find a rehome that fits with this, it is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling undertakings. If you are unsure of how to find this perfect parrot, or even of how much you can handle, I always recommend going through a reputable rescue.

To show that you do not have to be an internationally accredited bird whisperer to help a parrot needing a home, I am starting a compilation of "Happy Endings", stories of parrots, from rehomes to tragic rescues and everything in between, that transitioned happily into their new homes. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to email it to me!

Tito, Vosmaeri Eclectus, adopted by Maria

Paco, Solomon Island Eclectus, adopted by Jude

Tilly, Peach-Faced Lovebird

Kito, Congo African Grey, adopted by Dawn

Kiwi, Eclectus, fostered by Dawn

Tito's Story

~This story was written by Maria from The Eclectus Connection~

Tito, a Vosmaeri Eclectus, came to us when he was 6. His daddy, a very busy and successful executive, used to work long hours and Tito was alone at home for 12-14 hours/day. Despite this, I know he was happy, well loved and well cared for. I first met Tito at the office, I was new there; his daddy and I used to work for the same company and he would bring Tito to the office prior to leaving on a business trip to Europe. Tito was then taken to a boarding place for a week or more.

It was love at first sight for me, I’d never seen an Eclectus parrot before…I kept watching this beautiful parrot walking through the office, searching for his dad, couldn’t believe my eyes how quiet and good he was. He angrily refused the treats his dad gave him (to make up a bit for his upcoming absence). I went to him and offered my arm without knowing that it could have been dangerous; Tito just stepped on, taken by surprise!

In the meantime, Tito’s dad had gotten married and his wife was expecting the first baby. One day I heard Tito’s father asking everyone in the office whether they would like to take Tito. He and his wife felt they couldn’t take good care of Tito and the baby at the same time. Tito’s mother was not a parrot lover.

I was shocked and saddened!

When his dad asked me about Tito, I promised to discuss this with my husband; we had long discussions, neither of us was really convinced that we needed a pet at that time. I was extremely depressed after major tragedies in my life (my parents’ death, my beloved dog’s death) and couldn’t even think of another pet. I used to have parakeets years ago and for some reason imagined that it wouldn't be that difficult to take care of Tito. We started reading books about Eclectus parrots and searching the Internet; the more we read, the less ready and more concerned we felt. Such a responsibility!!!

We finally decided to bring Tito into our home…He came with his huge, expensive cage, favorite toys, and 6 years of a happy life with his special, intelligent dad. When I picked him up he was in a small carrier, scared and vulnerable, trying to get his dad’s attention. In the car, while I was holding the carrier, he was very agitated and desperately called his father’s name in a sweet voice. It was the first and the last time he called his dad… I felt so sorry for him, I was almost crying.

After we released him into his cage (it was already at home, with his toys and beautiful bowls), he felt better and tried to take a nap. At bed time we left him in the living room and went upstairs, though we worried about him. When I heard him moving through the cage, wing flapping (exercising before sleep) I was so worried, thinking he was sick. The next day we left him alone in his new home, as we had to work. He must have felt so lonely and lost. Tito was always very good, though, quiet and well mannered. We never heard him screaming. He would make sweet noises, sometimes asking “What” in French.

A week later, while Tito and I were alone at home, I heard someone talking in a very deep voice in the house…I was frozen, my heart almost stopped!!! When I was able to move, I started running through the house checking on every door, window and closet. All the horrible thrillers that I used to see when I was very young came to my mind…I was ready to call my husband or the police when I heard the voice again; I was terrified, and ran to see how Tito was. Tito had been taking a nap, but opened his eyes and watched me for a while. He was so calm that I decided I needed to calm down too. I suddenly had a feeling that Tito might have been the one talking, because he called his father in the car... but that deep voice?! I was so anxious to ask his daddy the next day that I wasn’t even able to concentrate on my work after my horrible sleepless night. He confirmed that Tito had such talking abilities! I wish he gave me more information on Tito before!

Tito was a “closet talker”, and he spoke French... but after 3 weeks he was calling my husband's name, hesitantly at first, then perfectly pronounced within several weeks.

Another surprise was to discover Tito on the top of his cage when we came back from work. We would usually leave the cage door closed during our absence. What had happened, had a stranger broke into our home and released Tito?! I found out later that it was piece of cake for Tito to open the door.

It's now been 7 years since that August day when Tito became a family member.

He's been through a lot since then (we have moved twice, and our new apartment building has undergone repair/demolition works for 4 years – extremely loud noises such as jack hammering, etc.). When I came home once I saw Tito desperately flying and crashing against walls/windows... I understood what he had been through during my absence! I had to take him to a boarding place (very nice, clean, professional people, but still a boarding place, noisy because of the numerous birds) where he spent many months, coming home only on week ends, going back on Mondays... Every separation was heartbreaking, we were already very attached to each other and our little boy couldn't understand why he didn't have a home any longer.

In 2006 I wasn't able to stand that situation (repair works going on forever, Tito deprived of a real home, me stressed on daily basis) and started looking for a new home for Tito.

I discovered Carolyn and asked for help. She was wonderful, gave me advices, supported me... I will never stop being grateful for her kindness and understanding.

Many people were interested in taking Tito; we even met with a few people from the TEC list. I probably exchanged hundreds of emails at that time. Tito was watching me with a sad look, I was sure he understood what I was doing. All the people we have been in contact with were very nice, however I couldn't find that special home I was hoping for... The last tentative attempt to place him was when we took Tito to someone's house, they were extremely nice people, who liked him very much. We were determined to leave Tito with them. Tito, though, was terrified, stressed and started obsessively calling my husbands' name. It was too much for all of us, so we just took him home and he stayed with us.

For the next 2 years we've been “under siege” (I was working from home at that time, while my husband was sick): very loud repair works all day, every day even on week ends, moving Tito's cage all around the apartment, desperately trying to avoid those disturbing noises. On several occasions we rented a small room for myself and Tito in order to escape the nightmare. Not even once was Tito a bad, nervous boy! All the people who met him said how well behaved and mannered he was: always sweet, patient, dancing, enjoying our company, grateful for every moment we spent together. He is so sensitive, he knows when I am depressed or sad...

For the last 2 years we haven't heard him saying long sentences any longer, probably because of the stress he had in his life with us. I don't mind that he never calls my name and that he stops me when I raise my voice or he thinks I am not nice enough to my husband (he adores him from a distance).

He still doesn't like showers (he loves to take a bath in his bowls), he never lets me do his nails or hold him on my lap. Tito gave me kisses very shortly after he came to us; however he would rather talk to us from a distance, watch us, dance. But he has never failed showing us his love!!!

We were dreaming about taking a companion girl for him, he's been too lonely. Unfortunately, not the best moment now... I feel I still have tons of things to do for Tito, but I am not able to achieve all of them: we don't really take him outside very often, he doesn't see many people. Tito doesn't have many toys...He has 2 trees and the living room as his own room. His diet is good, thanks to Carolyn and all the other members, who posted advices. Carolyn has been with me for all these years, she has helped us so much!

Thank you, Carolyn, for understanding my concerns, my fear and our stress!!

I learned so much through Tito, from Tito and for Tito!!! We love him deeply and I hope he knows that...

Thank you, Meg, for giving me the chance to write Tito's story!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Important for Parrots, People, and the World

I think everyone in America, and the world, should watch the following Now program:

After seeing that, how could anyone not see the importance of cutting emissions? This is a very important issue, and it affects every one of us. Why must we only see importance in damage done to Americans? Aren't we all humans, with the same feelings and pains? Doesn't every decent human being deserve the same respect, the same importance?

Please write your representatives in Congress to let them know you support strong climate action. America is a huge factor in global climate change, and though we are not the only one, we need to do our full part in reducing emissions. In order to prevent further climate change, every person in the world needs to have a maximum average yearly output of 2 tonnes by 2050. The average in growing nations, such as China, is around 6 now. Most European countries average around 10-12 tonnes per head, while the U.S. measures in at a whopping 24 tonnes per head! Global levels are soon to reach around 50 gigatonnes, which need to be cut to around 20 gigatonnes by 2050. Daunting figures, but certainly attainable. Or should I say, attainable if we take responsibility and act now?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pellets and Vitamins

Although I have talked about this before, I think it is important to mention again, as it is a common misunderstanding. So often I see people feeding both pellets and vitamins to their birds, trying to make sure their birds get everything they need to remain healthy. While the concern is well founded, I think this cure can do more harm than good.

When it is said that malnutrition is still the most common cause of death for captive parrots, it is important to note many things. One, parrots do not always die strictly of malnutrition, but of complications from malnutrition; a weaker immune system causing them to be more susceptible to bacteria, perhaps. Another thing that I think can be more important to note is that malnutrition simply means bad nutrition, not not enough nutrition. So both lack of vitamins, and toxicity of too much of a vitamin, hypervitaminosis, or a mix of the two, is one of the leading cause of death for captive parrots. It may seem odd to be talking about the dangers of too many vitamins; after all, we are always being lectured on how hard it is to get our parrots what they need, can we really give them too much? The answer, though a bit complicated, is yes.

If you are feeding only fresh foods, you have no danger of hypervitaminosis. This is because fresh foods, real veggies, fruits, and grains, etc, often contain precursors to the actual nutrient, so the body simply assimilates from the food what it needs, and leaves the rest. Vitamin A, for instance, is not a natural food of parrots, rather, they consume beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, from their food.

The problem arises when we start feeding synthetic vitamins. Synthetic vitamins are already in their final form, and so instead of the body being able to take what it needs and leave the rest, they have to use all that they are given. Vitamin A, using the same example, is one of the more common vitamin toxicities heard of; vitamin A is stored in the liver until it is needed, so too much of it can overpower the liver. Hypervitaminosis can show itself through all manner of symptoms including, but by no means limited to, plucking, poor feather growth/quality, excessive beak or nail growth, hyperactivity, aggression, listlissness, and an all manner of health issues including liver or kidney malfunction or failure, and unfortunately, death.

Now, however, things get more complicated. No one really knows for sure how much is the perfect amount of these synthetic vitamins for our parrots is correct. Each species has very different needs from all the others, and potentially different ways of precoessing the vitamins. Combine with this the fact that each individual parrot varies in how they handle synthetic vitamins and you have quite a puzzle! Going back to the vitamin A for another example, and in regards to parrots that are being fed an almost completely (80% pellets or more) diet, I have heard of an almost equal dying from lack of vitamin A as those dying from Vitamin A toxicity. This shows how very much individual parrots vary in their use of the vitamins, for some seem to be unable to process synthetic vitamins, and simply remove them from the body as effectively as they remove a toxin, while others become overwhelmed by storing all of the vitamins.

For these reasons, it is very often recommended now to feed a mostly fresh diet, with some pellets if you wish to include them or do not have enough time to make sure they are getting a fairly complete fresh diet, and time outside in the sunshine for vitamin D. Except for TOPs and FF, pellets are essentailly a filler, such as wheat, soy, or corn, with vitamins added. SO by including pellets, you are including daily vitamins. If you add more vitamins, you run the risk of hypervitaminosis.

Simply put, if you are feeding even a small amount of pellets, you should not add any vitamins unless a blood test shows your parrot is deficient, and then the vitamin should only be added for a certain time period until a re-check is completed, or as recommended by your avian veterinarian.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

All is well again

All the parrots are back in their normal cages, something they are very happy about! A bit of an update after this summer switch-around:

-As I had hoped, Linus and Ava hit it off immediately. They quickly went from having their cages side by side, hanging on to the bars next to each other when locked up, and playing happily together when out, to sharing Ava's flight cage. They really are so sweet together, following each other around, and having another bird with him has really helped Linus's confidence, as well as his diet! He is a much better eater now, after following Ava's example. Overall, another great success story on parrot friendship! I am always very careful when introducing parrots, making sure to watch their behavior carefully, and never allowing them out together unless I am sure they not only get along, but want to be together. I am even more cautious when it comes to allowing them to share a cage, however large, but as both Linus and Ava have always been flock birds, they do seem to do much better that way.

-Frank and Lola are very happy back in their flight cage, as are Yo-yo and Miss Patty, with plenty of room for playing! Likewise, Claudia and Chester are both very happy to be back in their own respective cages.

Now for the part that is hard to write about:

-Yaz did amazingly well this summer at my parents, and seems to have really fallen in love with them, and vice-versa! He is so happy with them, and definitely prefers them to me. As my parents also love birds, they have decided to keep him. Very sad for me, but since he has clearly decided he has found where he wants to stay, who can argue?

-My parents will also be keeping Peter and Luna, but that was already decided. Since Peter and Ava's big split, they can not be kept in the same room together, or really even the same house as I tried to do, as hearing Peter's calls really upsets Ava. My parents agreed to take one of them, leaving me with the hard decision of which one they could keep. After a lot of thought, I decided it would be better for them to take Peter and Luna, since Peter has always had an unhealthy obsession with the ekkies. As Chester's main goal in life appears to be destroying other birds, this has always meant I only let Peter out when Chester was locked up and I was in the room, or when I had Chester out of the room.

For all three of these guys, it took a lot to convince myself to let my parents keep them. While I am good rehoming foster birds, it seems so different with my own. I adopted them, not as semi-permanent tenants, but as my family, and it is very hard to not have them with me. Still, as happy as Yaz was here, it is obvious he has chosen my parents. And I know Peter and Luna will be happy there, and will still get the best of care and attention. It is always important to remember that what you would prefer for your parrots may not be what they would prefer, as in the case of Yaz. While I can hardly imagine life without Mr. Socialite Peter, I could not keep both of them, and he really was not very safe here as long as he kept trying to dive bomb Chester.

And in the end, they are only going to stay with my parents, so I know not only that they will get wonderful care, but that I will also get plenty of updates, and will be able to visit them often!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

An idea on food acceptance

One of the hardest things to do with parrots can be getting them to eat a better diet. Parrots are naturally suspicious of new items as a safety mechanism to protect them from potentially deadly objects. If they have never been shown that a food is not only edible but delicious, most will naturally avoid it. There are many ways to try and get them to try new foods, and I am always on the look-out for new ideas, even if I am not currently trying to switch anyone's diet.

Watching Claudia recently, as I was getting treats out to fill her foraging toys, I realized something very important: Claudia will eat anything if it comes from a prized treat jar. Anything. As soon as she sees or hears a jar she will start pinning her eyes and begging to be picked up, with her foot out and ready! She is not normally a lover of new foods, so I usually have to offer them for a few days, carefully showing her each morning how to eat them, and how wonderful I think they are, before she will fall in love with them. Therefore, the idea that I can get her to eat something simply by placing it in the dried pea jar and pretending it is the best kept secret in the world of treats is quite useful!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LLP Class

I finished the LLP course two weeks ago. I can certainly say it was one of the best parrot related investments of my time! It is extremely well run, very rewarding and enlightening, and will help everyone not only understand what they are doing when interacting and working with their parrots, but will help them work with them more productively and in a better way.

The LLP course, or Living and Learning with Parrots, is an eight week course on behavior, specifically as related to parrots, and on Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA (also known on the internet as "positive reinforcement training", which is a misnomer). It is run by Susan Friedman (website), Lee McGuire, and several great volunteer teachers. Although I think everyone should take the course, if you don't have time for that, you can also do your parrots a huge favor by joining the yahoo list PBAS (Parrot Behavior Analysis Solutions), read the following articles by Susan Friedman, or check out Barbara Heidenrich's website, Good Bird Inc.

I have always used ABA with my parrots, and I can say it is absolutely the best, and in my opinion, the only method that should be used when working with parrots. When the time is taken to learn about ABA and how to use it, it is not only is it much easier on the parrot and yourself, it is also the "fastest" method when used correctly and by a dedicated person. Although it can seem daunting at first, especially if you are not familiar with it at all, once you take the time to understand it (perhaps by taking the LLP course!) ABA slowly becomes easier and more manageable - along with the relationship you share with your parrot!

And as a side note, the LLP course is not only full of useful behavior knowledge for using with parrots, but the knowledge can be applied to all animals, as well as the humans in your life, as the same behavior rules apply to all. Just another reason to check out ABA!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Update on Linus

Linus is doing much better after his "misadventure". He has really calmed down, to the point that his cage can be approached without him freaking out. In fact, his food and water can now be changed with little more than him stiffening his body with worry. A large improvement from flinging himself against the bars! He still does not play much; in fact, he has only been caught playing once, though he does also chew on a manu mud block somewhat frequently. I have filled his cage with what were favorite toys of his, so I am hoping he will "re-discover" them again soon.

He has started to sing again though! All day long he can be heard: whistling, talking, giving kisses, and imitated every possible noise he can in general! It is wonderful to hear, he was such a joyful fellow, and his long silence has was heartbreaking.

He also seems to be interacting some with people, which is wonderful. I have been told that he even gives kisses when someone comes the room now!!! I am hoping he will settle back in with Ava. When I first had him, he was very good friends with the budgies, and just loved them. Ava is quite lonely now, without a friend, and Linus I know does better with the security of another bird near him.

Edited to add: As I had hoped, Ava and Linus quickly took to each other, and are no longer the two lonely waifs! The have become totally inseparable, following each other around all day; Ava offering Linus support and confidence, and Linus simply giving Ava a good friend to confide in, as well as someone to boss around!

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Review

After the post about toys and their impact, I thought I would do a review on Planet Pleasure toys, the repeated winner in my weekly "Destroy Your Favorite Toy!" contest.

Planet Pleasure toys are a fair trade product (I would post a link to their website to learn more about the incredible program they are running, but it is currently being revamped), and are made from 100% renewable and safe resources. Instead of capturing birds to sell, why not just make incredible parrot toys?

As some might remember, Yaz is a big fan of Planet Pleasure toys, and the repeated winner of "Destroy Your Favorite Toy the Fastest!" contest. However, he is certainly not the only one that can take down a pinata; Frank is the original pinata nemesis, though he worked with the medium size, instead of extra large. Yo-yo and Miss Patty can also give any size pinata and run for its money (even beating Frank some now!) a quality they share with the budgies. Pinatas are not the only type of Planet Pleasure toy loved around here, though. Along with all their other shredder toys (if you haven't all ready, check out their new designs!), the bamboo and coconut ones are also greatly appreciated, and have a longer cage life. And for those of you with larger parrots, the mini size toys make incredible foot toys for them!

Here are each of my parrot's current favorites:
-Ava (both chewing and preening)
-Peter (he loves to climb around and hang from it)
-Yo-yo (soft wood, crunchy shells, lots of fun)
-Miss Patty
-Frank (lots of pieces to pull out and weave with!)
-Claudia (ever seen an ekkie sit in complete bliss? She sits with one piece in her mouth, eyes half shut, and chewing slowly. Similar to a cow chewing their cud, actually.)
-Yaz (Just can't beat the original!)

I was also recently given a wonderful gift by a friend, in the form of several planet pleasure toys. Here are some pics, pre-destruction (the post destruction ones seemed a bit worthless, so just picture a blank wall)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pika and Pixel

Pika and Pixel are a normal male cockatiel and pied yellow and green female budgie, respectively. I am listing them for a friend in Richmond. They were displaced after a divorce, and were taken in by her, so she is now trying to find them a wonderful home. In case anyone reading this is looking for a delightful pair that loves flying, destroying toys, and stealing food (they love their veggies!), just send me an email!

Parrot Toys and Their Impact

Birds are destructive. This means toys are destroyed very quickly. I would quote a smart statistic here on how much destruction, in toys, an average medium sized bird could produce in a a year, but the number is too large to calculate. Therefore, I will leave it simply at a lot.

However, when you consider that you are buying toys simply to be destroyed tomorrow, it is very important to consider where those toys are from, what they are made of, and what their impact on the environment and your individual parrot is. Obviously, when considering the impact on your parrot, it is important to make sure the toys are made of safe materials - stainless steel metal, safe woods and dyes, no glues, vegetable tanned leather, etc. What is a safe material for one parrot may not be safe for another. I avoid all soft plastics for my birds, since they are full of toxins, and I am not entirely sure that those toxins are not leaching into the parrot's system as they chew on them. For Frank, though, I avoid all plastics, as he has a rather weak detox system (liver and kidneys) and will sit and chew on the plastic beads as they come apart in fine shreds. Obviously, he would be swallowing a great deal of these shreds, and they cause his system to go cattywampus! As for dyes, I completely avoid synthetic dyes for my ekkies and, again, Frank. If given a choice, I go for undyed items for the others, as well, but have not noticed a major difference either way. And finally, for all my birds, if I am in doubt, I move on. No need to put their health at risk, they will, after all, be spending hours with the toy in their mouths destroying it; if there is something bad in it, I would think it would make its way into their bodies!

It is more difficult, though, to tell what the environmental impact is. Some things are easy to tell. Plastic production, again, is very hard on the environment; another good reason to avoid soft plastics, especially. Non-organic rope is either cotton, which supports the use of pesticides (while putting those chemical residues in with your bird, by the way) or a synthetic material from petro chemicals, which are not great for the environment either. Wood, though, is something I often wonder about. How do I know the wood on my parrot toys is from sustainable harvesting? Many parrot toys are made in China, with wood taken from.....? And everyone knows the horrible environmental impact of clear cutting!

In the end, can everyone avoid these products for their birds, and only buy the best? Not really. However, by making small changes, choosing a safer toy over a suspicious one once on every toy order, it can make small differences, which can really add up. Here are some "green" products I know of:
- Planet Pleasure Toys - personally my favorite (who doesn't love supporting fair trade?), and definitely my birds' favorite!
-Organic Cotton Rope
-Stainless Steel
-Safe wood from your backyard - if unsprayed, this is always a good option!
-Java wood comes from discarded coffee trees

Let me know if you know of any more!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A new home

Miss Busy Body is off to busy another body! Milly Molly Mandy went to her new home today, one in which I know she will be very happy and spoiled. Her new family is not only very excited about adopting such a "smart, spunky, and beautiful parrot", but have also taken much time to think through the decision and make sure they are prepared for the time and expense involved in caring for a parrot. Milly Molly Mandy will be able get both all the toys, exercise, and foraging opportunities she needs, but also all the attention!

Along with a large supply of organic food, of course. Milly Molly Mandy could not be happy anywhere she did not have more food than any normal parrot should be able to consume in a week!

Monday, July 20, 2009

They wanted to take a walk

And I wouldn't let them. As Chester has a deep hatred for all birds, and the cockatiels can be incredibly annoying, they are never out at the same time. This means there are almost always discontented parrots here. To combat this irritating fact, both Yo-yo and Chester have started to take advantage of the simpler door latches on their temporary cages.

Yo-yo has actually succeeded in his quest, something he is quite proud of. It is not the easiest door to open, as it has to be lifted up and pushed out and down. Still, he has figured it out. This means he can not only get out when it is dangerous out of the cage (i.e. Chester is loose) but also is in danger from the door itself. The second time he tried to open it (the first time I convinced myself I had left it open, which I am sure was very amusing for all others involved) he had a very narrow escape with being choked. He managed to open it partway, and re-lock it on his neck. Fortunately, I was in the room, and was alerted to his predicament by the strange strangling noises coming from the cage. Don't worry, he was fine after being released and cuddled, and has suffered no long term damage. However, it puts a lot of pressure on me to remember to lock the doors every time; I have forgotten, though he fortunately managed to open the door safely.

Chester has yet to get the doors open on his cage, but not for lack of trying (and frustration at Yo-yo's new found ability!) He has to lift a latch to get the door to open, and is getting very close. I am beginning to wonder whether I should lock the doors now before he figures it out, but then, he is so dedicated to it, I figure a nice puzzle is good stimulation!

Of course, Frank can already get out of everything, so his doors had large locks on them from the beginning!

Ava is the only one that seems disinterested with doors. If she wants to get out (she is only locked up if Mr. Green Jeans is out) she climbs to the top corner of the cage, and curls up into a little ball, with her beak on the bar, and her feet on either side of her head. Awkward, I know! Once in this position, she alternates between pushing hard against the bars with her body, looking at me and begging (sort of, that position, you know......) and calling to be let out. Very convincing, and I must say, very effective!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What About the Wildlife

Actually that is exactly what I would like to know. I am staying on a large creek/small river off the Potomac. When I was young, there was a great deal of aquatic life- crabs, fish, shrimp, etc. Through pollution, poor farming practices, and extreme over-fishing/crabbing,this was all changed. It became much shallower, and the crabs all but disappeared; we certainly never saw any. Through new regulations, and with the help of my watchdog relatives, this has slowly improved. Although it is still shallow, and pollution still comes in, it is not as much. The crabs began to come back, and we began to see them every now and again off the dock.

This year is different, though, and very disturbing. The first time I went down to the dock, I noticed it. At low tide it is extremely obvious. Dead crabs line the bottom and the shore. As the water washes the mud on the bottom, more are uncovered. Dead fish are also everywhere. Gone are the huge schools of minnows, ranging in size from 1/2 inch to 3 or 4 inches. Gone are the huge schools of shrimp. If one sits there long enough, you do see a few live animals. A few crabs, some minnows, exactly two shrimp. But almost more disturbing was what these creatures were doing. All of them were jumping to the surface, over and over. This is to be expected of crabs; they breathe air. But fish? they should not be behaving as dolphins. And they were dying, as I sat there. One particularly large minnow's passing was "memorable." He skipped across the top of the water, before stopping and dying, turning over on his back. Almost immediately, minnows of the same species began eating him. What can best be described as a bait ball, where predator is prey, was formed. Soon, not just the dead minnow, but others still alive, were being eaten. Very strange. Other minnows were "swimming" by spinning, over and over, from being on their stomach, to side, to back, etc.

From the fact that they were all jumping out of the water so, I would conclude that the oxygen content of the water was low, perhaps from fertilizer run off. However, I don't know what is causing the fish to suffer from vertigo, perhaps some disease? As to why they have resorted to eating each other alive, well.....

I have no way of telling on my own what is causing the problems. I do know it is a real problem, though, and one that is impossible to escape. I say this as I sit on the porch, the air being filled with the scent of rotting animals.

So, to all you readers, wherever you are, please think before you use any chemicals on your yard, or in fact use any chemicals at all. There are so many natural, environmentally friendly products available, many of which work just as well. And even if they didn't, once your world, your personal environment, is dead, you are not far behind. So why would it matter?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reasoning with Cockatiels

It is practically impossible. Miss Patty and Yo-yo finally decided the floor of their cage was the best place to start a family, as that was the one place I could not keep them from.

Miss Patty laid the first egg without much trouble. The second one, however, was another story. She was two days late laying, during which time she got plenty of steam baths. After the last one, she did finally lay it, but not without great difficulty. I was worried that the strain had been too much for her- for the next day she did nothing but lay on the floor of the cage. However, she has since improved, and now, a week later, seems as good as she was before. The experience, though, seems to have cooled her urge to raise a family.

After she laid the first one,I was surprised to see that she really seemed serious about raising a family. Both she and Yo-yo took very good care of that egg. She not only sat on it,but turned it regularly, and even seemed to check it with her beak for temperature. She would then stand beside it for several minutes before resuming her position on top. She also got up quite often, wet her stomach in the water dish and then went back to sitting, though now with proper egg hatching humidity.

Yo-yo would take over sitting on the egg whenever she left to eat, or just took a break. He was ever so dedicated a father, but I must say, he was not very good at it. He would spend the entire time he was supposed to be sitting on the egg, often half an hour or more, simply trying to adjust it beneath himself. Instead of watching Miss Patty, and placing the egg between his leg and breast bone as she had done, he continually tried to place it directly beneath his breast bone. Obviously, this did not work, for once it was there, his feet could no longer touch the ground, and Yo-yo would fall forward while the egg rolled backward. Needless to say,Yo-yo took the egg on some very long walks across the bottom of the cage!

For a day or so after the second egg was laid, they continued sitting. Actually Miss Patty was too tired to get up, so she sat on the eggs while Yo-yo preened and fed her. After a bit, Yo-yo even took one of the eggs to "sit" on, so she only had to sit on one. Very adorable to watch, but I am only too glad to say that a week later, there have been no more eggs, and the two that were laid are totally abandoned on the bottom of the cage. Miss Patty hopefully has laid her last, so I do not have to worry about her anymore, or replacing the eggs, as I would have had to do if she had kept up her dedication. I certainly don't need to add to the thousands of cockatiels already needing homes!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And Oscar has gone home!

Surprisingly, my "shameless endorsement" of Oscar worked, and he has found a lovely new home, with Karla and her family, who are just waiting to spoil him! He was taken there just a few days ago, and I know he will be very happy there. You can also check out her recently started blog, and see how all of her flock is doing.

Now, just mentioning it again, if anyone is interested in an amazingly tame and incredibly loving Indian Ringneck girl, don't hesitate to contact me!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And we have arrived!

The travel day was, in general, rather uneventful. Everyone got here fine, and was very happy to be set up in their cages. Although they were all a bit stressed for a few days, and unanimously decided becoming very picky eaters was only thing worth doing, they soon got over that. Not surprisingly, separating birds like Yo-yo and Miss Patty from their food is extremely difficult!

Speaking of Yo-yo and Miss Patty, they have decided to be quite contrary to all commonly accepted rules of breeding, and in just the few days since arriving, and even fewer since settling in, have come to the decision that this is the perfect place to start a family. Again. A completely new place, and no "obvious" nesting sites available, and yet this is the time they chose. So far, they have tried the top of a picture frame, behind their cage (which is on a table, not set against the wall and beside a window) under a chair, under the dresser, and under the bed. So far, the dresser seems to be winning. Yo-yo spent over half an hour under there yesterday, whistling, talking, and calling to Miss Patty to come. She declined stubbornly, and stayed on top of the cage. As she did not seem interested in the dresser then, I was happy to let Yo-yo entertain himself under there - at least it meant I did not have to stand in front of the picture frame (the previous favorite spot) the entire time they were out of the cage! However, today he managed to convince Miss Patty to join him, so I now have another place from which to keep them. It is not easy, though. As soon as I let them out of their cage in the morning, they start flying from one "nest spot" to another, and it is all I can do to protect the furniture from being chewed or them killing themselves, let alone stop their building a nest at all! If you add that to the fact Yo-yo has morphed, seemingly overnight, into to something not unlike a ferocious 9 inch dragon...... well, you see my point.

On a different note, I just came back from taking Ava on a walk, which both of us greatly enjoyed. It is odd, though, ever since I got her, she has been extremely sensitive to heat and/or the sun. She starts panting and holding her wings out almost immediately, and if you don't get her to a cooler place or spray her with some cool water, she quickly looks like she is about to pass out. It has always bothered me, none of my other birds do this. Because of this, though, when I take her out, I cover the top of the carrier, and take a spray bottle with me. I also try to take her out on cooler days, or when there is a breeze, of course, as there was today. As I said, despite her heat issues, she did really enjoy the walk and the fresh air, studying all there was to see outside. When she came in, I gave her a spray bath, which she also loved. After all that excursion, along with the effect of a couple of her favorite treat, sunflower seeds, she is now taking a nice long nap.

Claudia is gaining surprising new knowledge already from this trip - she has been practicing all day the frog calls she hears outside. It is quite funny, actually, watching her while she works so hard to perfect it. Although it is an adorable sound, I don't think she quite has it yet - her voice is too high!

Frank and Lola are simply loving the fact that they have an entire new backyard to yell at out. I take them out on the porch, and they stay happy all day, chattering with each other, playing, and telling the local squirrels and birds exactly what is up and what is not!

And, for those MCS readers, the air is so much better here off the Potomac in the woods, I am really enjoying being able to go outside! Combine that with the fact that the air in the house is so much better, too, and it is a win-win situation. Being able to take deep breaths is simply wonderful!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Awww, Quakers are so cute

After a shower, Frank and Lola were having some later afternoon playtime on my bed. However much trouble those two are (ahem, Frank!) they certainly are sweet and so lovable. Along with being incredibly photogenic, of course.

Wet fluffiness.

A rare picture of Frank mid-preen.

A more usual picture of Frank preening,
as he is preening while posing perfectly for the camera.
Lola is in the back, doing a bit of a fluff and ruffle.

Finishing with a nice afternoon nap in the warm sun.

Lola playing on my stomach. She can be such a sweet bird;
she loves playing and sleeping on her back on my stomach,
or simply on the bed beside me.

Monday, June 8, 2009


This summer and fall are going to involve a lot of changes for my parrots and myself in my quest to find safe housing for myself (I know those with MCS understand this, the rest, just bear with me.) Where I am living now is definitely not good for me. This summer, while organizing my permanent safe housing I am going to be living with a relative in another part of Virginia that will hopefully be much healthier for me. Fortunately, most of my family also loves parrots, including these relatives, so I will be able to take them with me. However, I have to decide which ones I should take, and which would be happier staying with my parents, as they already know them pretty well. The parrots I take with me will have to be in smaller travel cages, as taking their flight cages is not really an option, obviously. That, along with the trip and new environment I think will be rather stressful on some of them.

I know that I am taking Miss Ava, and that Peter and Luna are staying with my parents. This choice was obvious, because I have to keep them separate. It was also easy to decide which budgies would be going, and which staying, since Ava loves travel and people, and Peter hates any stress.

I also know that Claudia and Chester will be going. Claudia loves people, as well as change and new situations, so I know she would enjoy it. Chester is extremely fearful of new situations and people, but he is so very bonded to me, there is no way I could leave him anywhere.

Yo-yo and Miss Patty will also be going. I am a little worried about how Miss Patty will handle it, but she does not seem to be bothered by anything (I always joke about her been there, done that attitude.) Yo-yo I know will love it, more people to impress with his concertos!

The quakers I am still very 50/50 on. On the one hand, I would be able to move their aviary to my parents, so they could stay in their large cage and nest boxes, all of which is very important to them . On the other, I am the only person that can handle Frank, which is a very convincing argument for taking them! Lola is pretty good with changes, as long as I am there to reasure her it is fine, but Frank is another story. He does not like new people, new places, or anything else he is unsure of. In fact, the only new things he accepts readily are toys, and it took years to get him to that point with just one category of items. Still, he would be able to get out much more often, get more attention, and go outside in his carrier if I took him. I would also be able to continue his training, which he loves. So, after writing this, I have convinced myself I have to take them. I know Lola would love it, and while Frank would be very suspicious of it, I think he would prefer it to staying with my parents!

I am unsure as of now whether Linus will be going, but I think that is a no. I don't think he could handle another move now. Fortunately, I already have him quarantined at my parents, so he would not have to move at all. Still, I would certainly really miss him, and not being able to check on him myself. I know my parents are very good with birds, and love them, so he will still be taken very good care of.

Yaz I think might stay. He does not like changes, at all, and is rather adamant about that. He also loves my parents. Combine that with the fact that he and Chester have an on-going battle to kill each other....... and you decide that perhaps Yaz would prefer to stay here. I will really miss his jazz dancing and cheerful attitude, though.

Of the two foster birds, I am pretty sure Milly Molly Mandy will be going. I do not have anyone interested in her, and this way she will be able to meet more people. Plus, there might be someone in that part of Virginia that would be interested in adopting her. Oscar seems to have a home now (my shameless endorsement actually worked!) so he of course will not be going.

So, overall, it is a very difficult decision to make. While the relatives I am staying with love birds and are very good with them, it will still be very different than here. For one, I will have some space restraints. The parrots I take will have to stay in smaller travel cages. The ekkies will be moved down to a 36" by 24" cage, the tiels an 18" by 18" cage, etc. They will still have plenty of time outside their cages and outside the house, though. They will also have attention from new people, which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on which parrot you are talking about.

My parents also love birds, are good with them, and have no problem taking care of them. I will certainly be able to get to hear how those that stay are doing all the time, and get pics. In fact, I could probably even talk to them on the phone, which Yaz would very much enjoy. He loves talking on the phone to people!

LLP Class

I finally get to take Dr. Susan Friedman's LLP class this summer, starting on Friday. The several year wait really builds anticipation! I have been on the Behavior list, PBAS, for a while, and you really do learn so much on that. Every thing I learn about behavior for parrots, or any other animal, really, makes me want to learn more; it is such a fascinating subject, and I get results so quickly after applying it to my parrots!

Update on milly Molly Mandy

She really has done an amazing turn around! I told you before how surprised I was at how well she had done, and that I was going to go ahead and list her right away (which I did.) She has continued to progress greatly, though! She now steps up readily, even without a treat to bribe her. Along with that, she has come to love and beg for scritches and head rubs. Really quite a little lovebug! I thought at first this could be something she would only allow me to do, but after several visits and treat sharing with my Mom, she will now (quite blissfully) take scritches from her.

I am careful to make sure that I do not rub her back, under her wings, etc., anything that would stimulate her hormones. I am also careful to continue playing and other activities with her as another way to keep her from getting hormonal and dependent on scritches. Having a foster parrot that appreciates hands-on attention this much is great, it really helps get them as tame as possible, which means finding a home is much easier. I certainly don't want to do anything to aggravate the situation!

Enjoy the super cute photos!

Head rub bliss, eyes closed.

What happened? Why did you stop?
Waking up to reality is so hard.

You stopped giving me head rubs to take pictures.
Is that it?

What is the world coming to?
No more head rubs because she wants a photo.

Yay, scritches again!
(also titled, "I am taking your head!")

I love neck stretches.
(Also titled, "Replacing parrot's head")

Ohhh, relaxation!

And a final pic from a different day,
getting head rubs on top of the cage.
Isn't she cute?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yet another Update on Oscar

Budgies are hard find homes for. They really are. Oscar is doing very well, and I know he would make an amazing friend for someone, if they would only contact me. I think though, unfortunately, most people just go to a petstore where they can pick out which budgie they want, or to a breeder so they know they can get a young, friendly one. The majority of people that would think of adopting a budgie off of petfinder are those that are die-hard rescuers. And the number of them that want to adopt a budgie are still fewer.

It is not that a lot of people don't have budgies, or that a lot of people that believe in rehoming don't have budgies. It is just that if they want one, they either don't live around here or already have a budgie, either one of the many that need homes, or one they bought as they were just getting into parrots, before they realized how many needed homes.

Still, budgies are amazing parrots, and Oscar is an especially nice budgie (judge for yourself if I am biased in saying that!) He is very playful, and hilarious to watch. He is also more food motivated than most amazons, which means he is highly trainable. He loves people more than birds, and loves chatting with everything more than that, so he is certainly a good parrot to have a conversation with, even if his English is hard to make out, being mixed in with everything else he says.

I am still looking, though, so if any one reading this is desperate for a personable budgie friend that will appreciate any time you have for him, let me know!

(And yes, this is a shameless use of this blog to convince you to adopt this budgie.)

Linus came back

For political correctness, I will simply say that Linus left the home I adopted him out to, and ended up in one which was not the best for him. This past weekend, fortunately, I got him back, much worse for the wear, poor little guy. When he left me, Linus had finally started to really gain confidence. He was adopted by a very nice family, and I know he was very happy there, but things happen. I am glad I was at least able to correct them, and I hope none of my birds will ever have to go through this again.

Skipping ahead now, Linus is back here. He is a mere shadow of what he was when he left here. He is thinner than when I got him, and far, far more mentally stressed and panicky. His feathers are dark and greasy, and he had some green discharge from his cere. His feet, which had been arthritic when I got him, but had improved with a good diet and a cushioned platform to sleep on at night, are bright red, very inflamed, and obviously painful. He has also started plucking. He has pulled all of the feathers on his legs, under his wings, and quite a few on his back and upper wings. All over his body, although he has no other bare spots, he has pulled out down feathers, so that he has only a thin covering of contour feathers left. If these move even a little, you see bare skin, very inflamed, and in places, bloody, bare skin. Fortunately, his plucking has not gone as far as a bare chest or anything, but was enough to get him back here. I am hoping he will stop now, and can grow back in all his beautiful feathers.

As I said, his mental state is pitiful, too. Not only does he go into a blind fright, spastic state if his cage is touched, or if you move too quickly, or appear to be thinking about touching his cage, he is obviously fearful almost all the time. After adding back a comfy platform and hiding places in his cage, he did relax some, but he still seems very upset, scared, confused, and depressed. And yes, that is anthropomorphizing, but sometimes, it is necessary, so please forgive me!

Before he left, he was quite the singer (talker, yeller, whistler) and could imitate absolutely everything he heard. He never stopped talking, whistling, singing, and imitating, in fact. He had even begun to speak in context, and always called for me by name when I left the room. Since he has been here after his "adventure" he has never sung, whistled, or spoke. Not once. Every now and then, he will start the tiel contact/fright call when he is panicking, but other than that, nothing. It is so sad.

As to food, he is iffy on how much he will eat. He is eating millet,some lettuce, but he only eats little bits of his other seed and fresh food. I am hoping that will improve, as it already has. He refused to eat almost anything for the first few days.

Although he is not really handlable, I did manage to get him in the shower. He loved that. Absolutely loved that. He had been here 2 days, and I finally decided I just needed to get him cleaned off fully. I am glad I decided to, for while he did not play or spread his wings, he did run from one side of the shower perch to the other, to sit in the full spray of the water. He sat there, seemingly in bliss, with his eyes closed, occasionally turning his head or body to get a different part in the direct spray. After many minutes, he moved out of the full spray, and I turned off the shower. It was after that shower and cage renovation that he seemed finally to let down his guard a tiny bit, and relax some in his cage.

Needless to say, he is not going anywhere.


Miss Milly Molly Mandy!

As you can see, she is a green Indian Ringneck Parakeet, female. Since we have even traced her to the petstore she was originally sold from, I even know her age! She was born in August 2006, making her almost 3 years old. Although I did not realize it when I decided I would take her on as a foster, she was a real rescue.

First, the history I learned from the petstore:
She was originally sold to a family to be a pet for their daughter, and stayed there until she was almost 2, when her noise level, along with the daughter's growing lack of interest in her, led to her being taken back to the petstore. As it is a good local petstore, they take their parrots back. In early April, another family came in, and bought Milly Molly Mandy for their daughter. What these people failed to communicate to the petstore was that they wanted a cuddly, fluffy friend for their daughter. Not how I would describe Milly Molly Mandy!

Now, fast forward to when a kind family member went to pick her up for me. They drove up to what looked for all the world to be a deserted house, with peeling paint, no lights, and a lawn that had gone to seed. Occasionally, looks are not deceiving, as the house was deserted. After waiting there for quite a while, the family drove up. Apparently, the electricity had been shut off, and the family had moved in with friends and/or relatives an unspecified amount of time ago. They left Milly Molly Mandy in the house, with the windows open 8"-12", with no screen, to let the heat out (nice, but it also let in everything else, I am sure.) She also had an empty food dish, and a dried up water dish. Not a good combination. She was completely terrified of everything that was happening, and I cannot blame her a bit for that. The real reason (ignoring the fact they did not have money to keep her) the family decided to get rid of her was that she was extremely aggressive. As the 8 year old boy was sure to point out when he yelled from the car, "She'll bite your finger off!"

She has been here about two weeks now. I am really shocked at how amazingly she has done. In the beginning, she was terrified of anyone touching her cage, but that quickly went away once she learned I was not going to touch the cage more than necessary to give her food and water. Although she has very severe separation anxiety, she now shows almost no fear of anything else. Her fear of hands is also greatly diminished. The biting is certainly not an issue, as it rarely is with parrots if they are not being forced into something they dislike or feel uncomfortable with. After the two day wait (I never let new parrots out of their cage until they have been here a full two days, however tame they are) she not only came out of her cage, but soon learned to climb across a ladder from her cage to reach a nearby bed.

You may be wondering if Milly Molly Mandy is too long a name for such a little parakeet. I assure you, it is not. She not only earns these three names many times over, but many others. She is a non-stop whirlwind, here, there, and everywhere, and always getting into something. She loves toys, and is not at all afraid of new ones, she relishes them, and quickly goes to work destroying them. She does not stay chewing for long, though, soon deciding that a different toy is better, or that she wants to eat, flap her wings while yelling at the top of her lungs, chatter happily to the world, or just in general run and climb all over. This is why I decided to name her after a favorite children's book character I remember, Milly Molly Mandy (and the book by the same name), a little girl that is always having adventures, and often getting in trouble.

Although I get great enjoyment out of watching Milly Molly Mandy play, and out of playing with her, I have to admit her beak is a bit indiscriminate. When on the bed, she will run hither and yon, playing not only with the multitude of toys I put out on the bed, but also with me. She soon lost all fear of climbing up and down me, to chew on my shirt, pants, hair and hair tie, along with any skin, moles, cartilage, and bones she happens to come across. Not biting, just playing, but it does hurt just the same. I try to convince her to stay on the bed and play, but that is impossible. I tried wearing a very exciting bird toy necklace I made just for her, and while she loved that, and playing with it, it just encouraged her to stay on me, and continue to chew on anything she could. Normally, I am not a huge fan of having parrots on my shoulder, but then again, I normally don't have to deal with parrots that won't get off my shoulder (head, back, knee, stomach.)

Despite this fearlessness of me, she obviously has never learned to step-up. In fact, my arms and hands are the one part of me she does not climb on on the bed. Occasionally she will step-up, for a treat, but we are still working on that. She is food and toy motivated, but has a very short attention span (read: 1-5 seconds) that cuts in to the amount of time she will try to get a specific item. Still, she has made amazing progress, and does happily climb onto a ladder, even if she does not get on arms yet. Knowing how the last family tried to get her to step-up, I would say she is doing amazing, and am not about to complain!

Overall, I think she is so confident I have decided to list her this weekend. By the time she goes to her new home, she will be out of quarantine (it takes a while) and I hate to keep parrots in a foster situation longer than absolutely necessary. As long as the new family is prepared to handle her antics and excitement, and accept her at whatever level of tameness she is ready to give them, I think she is very much ready for a permanent home!

And finally, a few shots for your enjoyment (and they were hard to get! I am not sure if the problem is that she is fearful of the camera, simply doesn't like having her picture taken like many women, or immediately is seized with a desire to tear the camera to pieces and is unable to do anything but think about how to get it. I am inclined to suspect the latter.)

Mmm, what do we have here??

If you don't mind, I think I will take a better look.

Jack pot!
(Don't worry, I got it away from her
before she took more than a few bites)

Yum! Special Food!

This is the look. The I-have-got-to-get-that,
looks-like-so-much-chewing-fun look.
I have many pictures with this look, so it is
fortunate it is a cute look!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Aging birds

There is a down side to rescuing, especially with the parrots that naturally have shorter life spans. It is not only a matter of how old they are when you get them, but how good their care was for the first part of their life.

Some of my parrots are quite young, like Yo-yo, Frank, and Claudia. Yo-yo had a very rough early life, but as I got him when he was around 6 months old, those health effects were easily reversed (although he is still "underweight"from being starved, even if he gets a stick of millet a day.) Claudia's liver is a little weak because she was weaned far early, but she also escaped any other major, health-affecting, abuse. Frank has just plain avoided any bad homes, his only problems are behavior wise!

Some of my parrots are older, though, and from not-so-great homes. I do not know Chester's age, other than that he is at least 10, but I do know that the last eight years of his life before I got him were very, very rough, for both his physical and mental health. I am hoping that his young age will help him eventually recover from the physical (and mental, of course!) health effects; he has already greatly improved. Peter and Ava are both a minimum of 5, easily more, and are both showing their age. Even though budgies should be able to live 10-20 years, most of today's modern budgies (i.e, the "bin-o-budgie" or "box store budgie") are bred with such bad bloodlines, and often live is such poor conditions, that 5+ is not a very young age anymore, unfortunately. Yaz seems to be doing the best of these older birds; he is around 10, but still seems to be going strong (aside from his very closely shaved chest!)

The ones I notice the age and care factor in most are Miss Patty and Lola. I have no idea of Miss Patty's age, but she certainly does not seem very young. I know she has had many homes, and I strongly suspect in the first she was a "battery hen" breeder. When I got her, she was not doing well and seemed very sick and very underweight. She greatly improved with better care, but has slowly declined again in the past few months, and now seems rather fragile though happy.

Lola is over 12, really not that old for a quaker considering they should be able to live to 30 or 40. I do not know much about the care in her first home, other than that she had heavy metal toxicity when I got her, and smelled of cigarette smoke and laundry detergent (shower, anyone? She actually had to be "aired" with open car windows on the way home.) She also greatly improved, but this winter and Spring she has really started to show her age.

Both Lola and Miss Patty went to the vet in March, and were declared very healthy, all things considered, so at least I know that much. I try to give them lots of supportive care, which helps.

Despite all you do, all the good care you may give them, or be prepared to give them, some things can not be changed. I would not trade taking in these birds for a minute; giving them even a week of a better life is worth it, but it is so very sad. To see how wonderful these birds are when given that chance. To think that no one has before stopped to notice this, to even learn what some of their most basic needs are. And that these birds will pay in years for that neglect and abuse.